Saturday, July 14, 2012

Friendship in Second LIfe

In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.

Albert Schweitzer

          Recently, I ruminated about Second Life (SL).  I had fallen into one of my introspective periods and blogged about community life inworld and some connections with Real Life (RL).  Prior to that, on the first anniversary of my blogging, I’d written about what people are doing in SL. 

But, what I haven’t written about so far are my friends and the meaning of friendship in SL.  (No, don’t worry, I’m neither going to prattle off a list of SL friends, yes, I have several, nor am I going to embarrass those whom I do have by calling them out.  Well, I will mention a few.)  Having been inworld for just over two years now and been blogging for over one, I have made friends.  (Much to the astonishment of Significant Other.) 

Writers, poets, philosophers, and countless others have argued and debated about friendship since the beginning of time.  I’m not about to hash through all that again.  I want to talk about friendship within SL.  Can we really have friends inworld?  How do we make and keep them?  Where do we meet them?  What do friends do inworld?  Why even have friends in SL? 

For me, my SL friends are people (Yes, real people with real feelings, not simply collections of computer code.) whom I’ve met in the course of my travels across the grid as I’ve written my blog.  These are folks with whom I share common interests or I enjoy their company.  (I’m assuming they enjoy mine.  Although, if they’re masochists from the BDSM community, they may have their own ulterior motives.) 

When I rezz inworld, I may IM them or they may IM me for a quick chat.  Some friends, we check in with each other more sporadically.  (A bad habit which I bring over from RL.)  I do what I do in RL.  Inquire about how they’re doing and chat about whatever our mutual interests may be.  Sometimes, I’m spurred by the thought that I haven’t checked in for a while so I make a point of reaching out if I see they’re inworld.  Other times, we meet for scheduled events, hunts, concerts, parties, or whatever it may be.  This is what I do in RL.  (OK, maybe I’m not the most exciting friend but I’m still a friend!) 

As I’ve written before, I take my friends as I find them in SL.  I don’t drive myself crazy trying to figure out if the RL person behind the avatar is really what they’re presenting themselves as.  For me, if someone goes to the trouble of preparing a backstory and an avatar as their SL face, far be it from me to challenge that. 

Also, for that matter, with rare exceptions, I deal with people in the context of SL.  I keep SL and RL apart as do the vast majority of my SL friends.  A few freely talk about RL and that’s fine with me too.  As in RL, I deal differently with different friends.  We all have our own separate needs which is what friendship is all about isn’t it? 

OK, so, I think I’ve made the point that I have friends in SL.  (Making friends in SL is tougher than in Facebook in my opinion.  You still have to go out and find people in SL.  With Facebook, you have a head start.)  How did I make them in the first place? 

I guess I make my friends in SL, the old fashioned way.  I go out and find them.  Being an explorer and a writer does help.  I go to new places and walk up to strangers and introduce myself and ask for an interview.  Most residents are agreeable.  Sometimes, I send requests for interviews to people whom I’ve learned about from other sources or whom I’ve been introduced to by others.  A few have made comments on my posts and I’ve followed up with them.  (Hope that doesn’t stop readers from commenting in the future.) 

Where do I meet my friends-to-be?  Chance encounters as I go walkabout on the grid.  Scheduled interviews with others at places of their choosing.  Scheduled events like the time I went to the nude baths in 1920’s Berlin.  (Which led to a whole new avenue of exploration inworld.)  The many hunts in SL have been meeting places for some of my oldest friends.  Then there are social clubs and just walking around my SL neighborhood, Nowaki.  By the way, weddings are a great way to meet new SL friends.    

What do I do with my friends inworld?  Pretty much the same as I do in RL except there’s no coffee.  We talk, complain about Linden Lab, debate politics, solve the world’s problems, and dance!  (OK, maybe I don’t do as much dancing in RL as I once did.) 

Then there’s a tougher question, why even have friends in SL?  First, even as avatars, we’re social animals.  Next, SL is a big, scary, and lonely place when you’re all by yourself.  (A reason, I feel, why many initial visitors don’t come back.)  Finally, we all need help sometime and we can all help others while we’re at it.  That’s what friends do for each other right? 

Yes, there are risks to friendship in SL.  Sometimes, friends disappear and we don’t know why.  One good friend of mine, Morsmordre Furman, hasn’t been inworld for some time and hasn’t replied to my queries.  I know she has health issues in RL and I’m concerned.  (If anyone knows about her and of her condition, I’d be grateful for an update.)  There’s conflict, and while I haven’t had the experience myself, I’ve heard of some real knockdown, drag out fights between people who once were good friends inworld.  Then there’s misrepresentation (in some people’s opinion) which I wrote of earlier.  Some have a hard time dealing with the RL person being very different from their avatar. 

Finally, where does friendship go in SL? For many of us, I believe, it stays inworld.  Friendships deepen and grow based on new experiences.  For some, SL friendships lead to RL friendships and relationships all the way up to marriage.  (I promise I’ll be writing about these couples soon.) 

SL friendships, or any virtual friendships for that matter, will, I believe, become a normal part of people’s lives as the Internet, virtual worlds, and social media continue to develop.  There will be a convergence if only because all trends tend to converge over time.  (Talk about sticking my neck out!)  In the future, we should be meeting with virtual friends just as we do with our RL friends.  Of course, some may argue that’s probably the last thing humanity needs.  Me, I’m not so sure.

I would like to thank all my SL friends who have invited me into their lives and made me feel at home and who have helped me in so many different ways.  Thanks to all of you!

I’m also grateful to everyone else, while not technically being “friends”, for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives. 

I’ve included pictures of a few of my friends below.  The list is not comprehensive and has some of my oldest and some of my newest.  They cover the breadth of SL that I’ve encountered so far.

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

     If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.

Photo No. 1 Morsmordre Furman

Photo No. 2 Perryn Peterson

Photo No. 3 Phideaux Mayo

Photo No. 4 Kaii Kironov

Photo No. 5 Glorf Bulmer

Photo No. 7 Steve Decker


Anonymous said...

friends in sl are easy to make but sometimes hard to keep. I have a small group of friends in sl and they mean alot to me. some of the most awsome people ive come to both sl and rl.

kimba said...

Thanks for being my inworld friend!

Lindal Kidd said...

Nicely written, Web!

Ivy Paderborn said...

As always, a thoughtful and intriguing read. I myself have both close friends and acquaintances in SL, but started playing because someone in my family played, and so I started by knowing a RL person in SL, which I think was a benefit for my experience. You are right when you say that being alone in SL can be scary - it is a lot to figure out if you don't have anyone to help you through things, especially when it comes to technical issues.

Thank you again for the blog! :)